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I smoked heroin every day when I was 16 and slept with men to fund the habit

FEW people know the dangers of Bristol’s drug scene better than Shanon Hathway, a crack, heroin and alcohol addict for 20 years.

The 37-year-old, who has been clean for six years, said: “Every day I would wake up needing a solution and I would spend the rest of the day trying to find the money for medication. I would sleep with men for money for drugs.”

Recovering addict Matt* started using drugs when he was 12 years old

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Recovering addict Matt* started using drugs when he was 12 years oldCredit: Alamy

I was in and out of prison for 20 years after turning to petty larceny to fund my addiction.”

Shanon – who lives with daughter Lexi, 4, and husband Keith, 46, also a former consumer – works as a criminal justice officer at Bristol’s Nelson Trust, a charity that helps people whose lives have been ruined by addiction.

She says: “Drug users need help, not to be punished.”

Bristol Police have been encouraging users to rest rather than jail in recent years.

“They’re victims too,” explains Inspector Green. “We’re after the gang leaders at the top of the chain who are causing all this misery.”

Matt Shepherd*, a recovering drug user and dealer from nearby Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, was drawn into gangs as a child.

“I grew up addicted to drugs and my family were drug dealers,” he explains.

The 40-year-old has been recovering for six months and now volunteers for With You, a charity that helps people struggling with drug, alcohol or mental health issues.

He explains: “I started smoking cannabis and heroin when I was 12 and was injecting heroin when I was 16. I was addicted to crack when I was 17.

“I was groomed by older drug dealers and got into gangs when I was 13.”

Between the ages of 15 and 27, Matt was in and out of prison.

After his final stint in prison, he was placed on methadone, which was his first introduction to recovery.

Matt is now married with children and has helped hundreds of drug users.

The sun was invited Witnessing firsthand a drug bust in Bristolone of several in the Southwest in the last month as part of Operation Scorpion, a new crackdown on the city’s most dangerous drug dealers.

Within a week, this led to 194 arrests for drug-related offences.

More than £400,000 in suspected narcotics and more than £130,000 in cash were seized, along with a range of weapons including tasers, knives and machetes.

Around 55 properties were raided and 400 major drug lines disrupted.
It is vital and life-saving work.

Drug deaths have risen to a record high in Bristol, with the latest government statistics showing there were 147 drug poisoning deaths between 2018 and 2020, the highest since local records began in 2001.

Just two years ago, the city with 41 areas in the most disadvantaged 10 percent of England was dubbed the “cocaine capital of Europe”.

And as Britain emerges from the pandemic, the dangerous drugs scene across the South West shows no signs of slowing down.

In Bristol, the drug market is estimated at around £108m a year.

Drugs in Bristol

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  • Vendors selling crack for £5 a brick
  • 5,000 “problem users” and deaths at record high
  • Violence on the streets in the troubled city

Joshua Torrance, Lecturer in Criminology at the University of Bristol and drug policy expert, says: “Cocaine is becoming increasingly popular. We have seen a drop in bulk price due to Albanian gangs.

“Availability is also easy. If you order delivery of a gram of coke and a pizza, the coke is sure to come first.”

Some dealers have reportedly been selling crack for as little as £5 a ‘stone’.

Peter Collins, Drugs Expert at Avon and Somerset Police, explains: “The pandemic has impacted drugs in Bristol, South Gloucestershire and Somerset, with supply routes to the UK being uncertain.

This led to a decline in the purity of heroin and crack cocaine, which posed a threat to the lives of people who used heroin.”

Inspector Chris Green, who runs Operation Scorpion in Bristol, says the city is home to 5,000 problem drug users with varying degrees of addiction.

As part of Operation Scorpion, police also visited more than 320 addresses of vulnerable people and conducted nearly 50 educational trips to schools, youth clubs and colleges to talk about infiltrating drug gangs.

Drug raids like those witnessed in Bristol take months to plan and it’s dangerous work.

Last year there were almost 37,000 attacks on police officers in England and Wales, including British transport police. In Bristol alone, around six officers are attacked every day.

*Name has been changed

Operation Scorpion ransacked around 55 properties and disrupted 400 major drug lines

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Operation Scorpion ransacked around 55 properties and disrupted 400 major drug linesCredit: Olivia West
Some dealers have reportedly been selling crack for as little as £5 a'stone'.

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Some dealers have reportedly been selling crack for as little as £5 a ‘stone’.Credit: Olivia West

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DevanCole

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